By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The most famous and iconic sporting stage in Brazil – Rio de Janeiro’s Maracanã Stadium – will not be available for domestic football (soccer) prior to the 2013 Confederations Cup, it was revealed last week. Home of Carioca clubs Flamengo and Fluminense, fans and directors of the two sides had hoped to use the stadium in upcoming contests.
With the arena closed since September 2010 – Fluminense’s last game there was on September 2, 2010, a 1-1 draw with Paulista club Palmeiras – fans have since had to take the longer journey to Zone Norte’s (North Zone’s) Engenhão Stadium. As a result, attendances have suffered heavily as supporters have showed their dissatisfaction at delays in renovation works.
Originally scheduled to reopen in December 2012, it was initially expected that the Maracanã would be available for use during the 2013 Campeonato Carioca state tournament. With a new deadline for completion set for April 27th, the Maracanã would be ready in time for the Campeanato Carioca final. However stadium officials have announced that the Maracanã will not open its gates for the local tournament’s last round.
The 2012 Brasileirão champions, Fluminense are also competing in this year’s Copa Libertadores, the South American Champions League. Peter Siemsen, the club’s president, last week held a series of meetings with the Rio de Janeiro state government in an attempt to try and gain use of the stadium for his side’s Libertadores campaign, should they reach the latter stages.
“It now looks extremely unlikely [Fluminense] will be able to use the Maracanã for the latter stages of the Libertadores. The Maracanã is our home; why do we have to keep playing at the Engenhão?” Siemsen said last week.
Niterói based Flamengo fan Roberto Ferreira echoed these sentiments, summing up to The Rio Times how fans are feeling. “This whole situation [Fla and Flu playing at the Engenhão while the Maracanã undergoes reformation works] has dragged on far too long.”
“Fans living in Rio are tired, but if you live in Niterói it’s even worse. There is a direct bus you can take to the Maracanã in around forty minutes. The Engenhão takes longer and you need to change transport,” he said.
As yet, Flamengo have made no official comment with regards to use of the renovated arena. But with more pressing commitments, notably in the Copa Libertadores, Fluminense’s need for a larger and more accessible stadium is arguably greater than that of their rivals.
It now seems a virtual certainty the first game to be played at the Maracanã, should it be delivered on time, will be the international friendly between Brazil and England on June 2nd. The game is part of the celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of the Football Association.
Meanwhile, Flamengo and Fluminense will continue to use the Engenhão until after the Confederations Cup. The Maracanã should be available to both clubs from August onwards.